|Mariah Steele Improvising at Movement at the Mills|
by karen Krolak
On a blustery night last January, I popped over to check out a Movement at the Mills performance before Monkeyhouse headed down to rehearsals for the Cool New York Dance Festival. Jason, Caitlin, and I met up in the back corner of the gallery just as Mariah Steele began a sumptuous duet full of subtle tensions and playful vocabulary. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time to stay to chat with the choreographers but I made a mental note to track down more of Mariah's work.
In August, I shared this story with Karyn Edison during the second weekend of the Massachusetts Dance Festival. Within a few minutes Karyn returned with Mariah who had just finished teching her piece. When she mentioned that she majored in Anthropology at Princeton, I knew I had to interview Mariah for Connect 2 Choreography. Given that Monkeyhouse will appear on at Movement at the Mills on November 5, this seemed like the perfect time to get a discussion rolling.
karen Krolak: Can you describe your experience working on Movement at the Mills?
MS: Movement at the Mills was a wonderful experience. Because we found out we had been accepted two weeks before the Christmas holidays and then the performance was the second Friday in January, we ostensibly only had two weeks to prepare. Thus, we had to take old pieces and adapt them to the space rather than make a new piece specific to the gallery.
kK: We are doing something similar with a piece called anti-ossification. Coincidentally, that was the piece we were rehearsing when I saw your performance at Movement at the Mills. Did you enjoy adapting a pre-existing work for the space?
MS: That process turned out to be very exciting: something about the white walls of the gallery really distills aspects of the dance. In addition, entering and exiting through the throngs of people and having audience members on the “stage” while we danced created a unique performance atmosphere. I felt like we were inside the audience's heads, weaving their dreams. But I must say, my favorite aspect of the performance was the improvs we did in the smaller spaces.
kK: Really, how so?
MS: Originally, I had planned to make our costume changes smoother by just wearing black for the improvs, but right before I left my apartment to go to the show, I decided maybe we should have costumes. In the true impromptu spirit of Movement at the Mills, I just grabbed whatever reached my hands first in the closet. At the gallery, we threw together some clothes combinations; coupled with our sneakers (because the floor was cement), we had rather hilarious costumes, that I never would have come up with rationally! Plus, the possibilities of playing with the gallery's architecture in the improvs – the walls, the window frames, a pole, the stairway wall and railing – added a whole other character to our dance. At the end of the two shows, we were exhausted, but exhilarated!